Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Phineas Gage's Skull

I've already posted pics from my trip to the Massachusetts General Hospital Ether Dome Museum (site of the first anesthesiology-aided surgery). Today I had a few spare moments at its sister hospital, Brigham & Women's Hospital, and checked out ITS museum, the Warren Anatomical Museum, housed on the 5th floor of the main medical library.

Probably the most famous of the many medical curiosities and artifacts housed at the museum is the skull of Phineas Gage, a construction foreman in 1848 who inadvertently had a large iron spike blast through his skull. Miraculously, he survived the incident, but the spike had pierced his temporal lobe, a portion of the brain. Though he survived, his personality was observed to be radically altered: once a highly responsible, well-liked individual, he became a belligerent, capricious man who was unable to go back to his original job. This provided one of the now-textbook examples of how the temporal lobe is the part of the brain which deals with personality and higher-order thought processes. In any case, you can still see where the spike passed through his skull at the museum.

Check out the crazy, bendy bones on this skeleton of an individual afflicated with rickets! This is caused by a lack of vitamin D in the diet as a child.

Painting of the modern surgical theater in the library's 1st floor.

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